Microsoft Word is a word processor program from Microsoft. It was originally written by Richard Brodie for IBM PC computers running DOS in 1983. Later versions were created for the Apple Macintosh (1984), SCO UNIX, and Microsoft Windows (1989). It became part of the Microsoft Office suite.
Microsoft Word owes a lot to Bravo, the original GUI word processor developed at Xerox PARC. Bravo's creator Charles Simonyi left PARC to work for Microsoft in 1981. Simonyi hired Brodie, who had worked with him on Bravo, away from PARC that summer.
Word's first general release was for MS-DOS computers in late 1983. It was not well received, and sales lagged behind those of rival products such as WordPerfect.
On the Macintosh, however, Word gained wide acceptance after it was released in 1985, and especially with the second major release, Word 3.01 for Macintosh, two years later (Word 3.00 was plagued with bugs and quickly superseded). Like other Mac software, Word for Mac was a true what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) editor.
Although MS-DOS was a character-based system, Word for DOS was the first word processor for the IBM PC that showed typeface markups such as bold and italics directly on the screen while editing, although this was not a true WYSIWYG system. Other DOS word processors, such as WordStar and WordPerfect, used simple text-only display with markup codes on the screen or sometimes, at the most, alternative colors.
However, as with most DOS software, each program had its own, often complicated, set of commands for performing functions that had to be learned (for example, in Word for DOS, a file would be saved with the sequence Escape-T-S), and as most secretaries had learned how to use WordPerfect, companies were reluctant to switch to a rival product that offered few advantages.
Word 1990 to 1995
The first version of Word for Windows, released in 1989 at a price of 500 US dollars, showed the direction Microsoft was planning to take Word; like Windows itself, it had learned much from the Macintosh, and used standard commands (such as control-S to save a file). With the release of Windows 3.0 the following year, sales began to pick up (Word 1.0 worked much better with Windows 3.0 than with the previous Windows/386 and Windows/286 versions), and rival WordPerfect's failure to create a workable Windows version proved a fatal mistake. It was version 2.0 of WinWord, however, that firmly established Microsoft Word as the market leader.
Word on the Macintosh never had any serious rivals, despite programs such as Nisus that provided features such as non-contiguous selection that was not added to Word until Word2002 in Office XP, and despite some users' belief that the program had not had a major overhaul between versions 3.01 in 1987 and version 5.0 in 1991. But many computer users believe that Word 5.1 for the Macintosh is still the best word processor ever made, thanks to its elegance, relative ease of use, and feature set. However, version 6.0 for the Macintosh, released 1994, was widely derided. It was the first Word version in which the core code was the same between the Windows and Mac versions; many accused it of being slow, clumsy bloatware. The Windows version, although it followed version 2.0, was also numbered 6.0 to coordinate product naming.
Later versions of Word have more capabilities than just word processing. The Drawing tool allows simple desktop publishing operations such as adding graphics to documents, although a proper desktop publishing program is obviously better at these tasks. Collaboration, document comparison, multilingual support and many other capabilities have been added over the years.
Microsoft Word is the dominant word processor in current use, making Word's proprietary document file format (DOC) the de facto standard which competing products must support to interoperate in an office environment. File import and export filters exist for many word processors such as AbiWord or OpenOffice.org (see the article on word processor for other competitors). Most of this interoperability is achieved through reverse engineering since documentation of the file format, while available to partners, is not openly available. The document formats of the various versions of Word change in subtle and not so subtle ways; formatting created in newer versions does not always survive when viewed in older versions of the program, nearly always because that capability does not exist in the previous version. The DOC format of Word 97 was publicly documented by Microsoft, but later versions have been kept private, available only to partners, governments and institutions. Industry rumors claim some aspects of the Word file format are at present not fully understood even by Microsoft themselves. Lately Microsoft has stated that they will move towards an XML-based file format for their office applications. Word 2003 has an XML file format as an option using a publicly documented schema called WordprocessingML available in all editions of Word2003, and endorsed by such institutions as the Danish Government. The "professional" edition includes the ability to handle non-Microsoft schemas directly in Word. Apache Jakarta POI is an open-source Java library that aims to read and write Word's binary file format.
Like other Microsoft Office applications, Word can be highly customised using a built-in macro language (originally WordBasic, but changed to Visual Basic for Applications as of Word 97). However, this capability can also be used to embed viruses in documents, as was demonstrated by the Melissa worm. Because of this, users having Microsoft Word installed should make sure their security settings are set to High (Tools/Macro>Security). In this case also, a minimum precaution is to have anti-virus software installed in order to avoid being infected by such a virus or acting as a source of infection. The first virus known to affect Microsoft Word documents was called the Concept virus, a relatively harmless virus created to demonstrate the possibility of macro virus creation.
Versions for MS-DOS include:
Versions for Apple Macintosh include:
Versions for Microsoft Windows include:
1989 November Word for Windows
1991 Word 2 for Windows
1993 Word 6 for Windows (renumbered "6" to bring Windows version numbering in line with that of DOS version, Macintosh version and also WordPerfect, the main competing word processor at the time)
1995 Word 95, also known as Word 7
1997 Word 97, also known as Word 8
1999 Word 2000, also known as Word 9
2001 Word XP, also known as Word 2002 or Word 10
2003 Word 2003, also known as Word 11 but officially titled Microsoft Office Word 2003
Versions for SCO UNIX include:
- Tsang, Cheryl. Microsoft: First Generation. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN 0-471-33206-2.
Last updated: 10-13-2005 12:07:34